Worst contract in Brewers history #1: Jeff Suppan – 4 years, $42MM
Even just seeing the name Jeff Suppan puts a bad taste in Brewers fans mouths to this day. Any mention that he was with the Brewers or that they signed him to the contract they did makes fans react like they just got sprayed in the face by a skunk.
This is, without a doubt, the worst contract in Brewers history.
Jeff Suppan had 12 professional seasons under his belt when the Brewers signed him on Christmas Eve, 2006. Suppan had posted just one sub-4.00 ERA in those 12 seasons. The newspaper headlines talked about the signing as a Christmas present under the Brewers tree. It turns out, it was just a lump of coal.
Suppan had a really good postseason in 2006, where he helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series. In the NLCS, he made two starts, went 15 IP and gave up just one run. In the World Series, he made one start, going six innings and allowing three runs. The performance was good enough to convince the Brewers that they should give him $42MM over four years.
Keep in mind, Suppan had a career 4.60 ERA in over 300 starts in his career to this point. That’s not a small sample size. Yet, the Brewers decided to sign him to the largest free agent contract in franchise history at that point.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Suppan continued to post poor numbers. They couldn’t even blame injuries, Suppan was healthy as a clam, he just stunk. He put up a 4.62 ERA in 2007, making all 34 starts.
In 2008, the Brewers broke their playoff drought, no thanks to Suppan who had a 4.96 ERA that season. Milwaukee lost four of his five starts in September that year. Suppan gave up six runs in 3.2 IP in the second game of a doubleheader against Philadelphia on September 14th.
That was Ned Yost‘s last game as Brewers manager. He was fired the next morning because of the team’s recent downward spiral. If Suppan doesn’t stink it up in that game, or any of his several leading up to it, perhaps Yost never gets fired. If Yost never gets fired, Ken Macha never gets hired. Macha couldn’t manage his way out of a paper bag and the Brewers stunk for two years with a great core in place because of it, while Yost got hired by Kansas City and won a World Series with them.
The Brewers still had two more years with Suppan under contract, and he struggled once more in 2009, posting a 5.29 ERA in 30 starts. 2010 was the final season of the Suppan Era in Milwaukee. They finally moved him out of the rotation, and then released him mid-season after he pitched to a 7.84 ERA in 15 appearances, eating the final $10MM on that contract, paying him to not pitch for them. He then signed back with the Cardinals, and actually pitched well in 13 starts down the stretch for them.
Suppan was by far the worst contract in Brewers history. It was a stupid signing to begin with, he was always a mediocre pitcher and they paid him like he was a No. 1 starter.
You could make the argument Suppan’s struggles led to Ned Yost’s firing, which was another one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history not only because they let go of a good manager who was a Brewers alumni and not at fault for the team’s struggles, but because it led to the hiring of Ken Macha.
Granted, Yost did make the “Soup pitched great” quote after he gave up 4 runs in five innings, but still, he was a far better manager than Macha and firing him was wrong. Did Yost feel he had to say things like that because of the investment the front office put in Suppan? Anyways, I digress.
It will be extremely difficult for any contract to ever top the horribleness of the Suppan deal, and for the Brewers sake, let’s hope no contract ever does.
Some honorable mentions include: David Riske‘s three year, $12.25MM deal and Franklin Stubbs’ three year, $6MM contract.